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Missing Education Predisposing RNs to Burnout A Guest Post by Megan Dobbs, RN


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Nursing school teaches us basic skills and minimum critical thinking competency to pass a Board exam. It does not prepare a nurse for the emotional toll that comes from quality patient care, high patient census and short staffed units. The effects of the resulting nurse burnout  ravages the ranks of novice nurses, on whom the future of our profession rests.

Our calling, in it’s nature, does not make emotional boundaries easy to erect. The NLN tells us to be compassionate and empathetic, at our core. As a direct result, many nurses who do not have emotional coping mechanisms in place, will reach a point of “burnout” or compassion fatigue. In the May 2013 article by Megan Murdock Krischke (,  surveyed healthcare workers reported up to 60% had experienced symptoms of burnout, leading to 45% leaving the workforce in the next two years. In addition, this phenomenon is not occurring in our veteran nurse population. Nurses under 30 years old, experience a higher burnout rate, according to this article in The Online Journal of Issue in Nursing, by the ANA(

Why? And how do we fix it, in order to preserve a workforce of nurses? I suggest a solution be instituted at the point commonpoint of all nurses. In nursing school.

Do you remember the first few weeks of nursing school? Those critical lessons set the tone for your education, and later, for your practice. They provided the foundation on which your build your skills, bedside manor, prioritization and organization systems. What were those first few lessons about? I remember talking about basic patient safety, beginning skills practice, learning basic documentation. We learned the actions of a nurse, an education based on the patient in the bed in front of us. If, in addition to our patient care, new nurses are taught self-care and emotional coping mechanisms, at least our highest risk population for burnout would have some basic tools to combat the emotional stress of the profession. This aspect of nursing education seems to be missing, and it is predisposing our profession’s young to burnout. Our veterans, by the statistics, have developed these skills themselves over time, and by necessity.

In the classrooms, it is imperative that nurse educators cover topics such as:

1. Identifying signs of burnout

2. Resources identification, both at university and employer level

3. Basic effective coping techniques

4. Ineffective Coping (possible origins  of controlled substance abuse by nurses?)

As these topics are as vital to effective patient care, as they are to a nurse’s self-care, they should also be included on the RN Board exams. We are proud to be nurses; it would be a shame to loose new stars in our field due to a lack of education and support.


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